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.Recap: Hispanic Hotel Owners Association Hotel,
Development and Investment Conference
Raul Leal Named Hispanic Hotelier of the Year

WASHINGTON, D.C., November 24, 2008— More than 250 attendees from more than five Latin American countries and 25 U.S. states gathered in Miami to do transactions and celebrate the impressive growth of Latino hotel ownership at the group’s first annual Hotel, Development and Investment Conference, held last week at the Doral Resort and Spa in Miami, Fla.  

Despite a troubled stock market, deal-making was widespread, according to attendees.   “The caliber of attendees and content exceeded our highest expectations,” said Angela Gonzalez-Rowe, founder and president of the Hispanic Hotel Owners Association.  “While it is too early to determine how many deals will be inked as a result of the inaugural event, we know that at least 15 to 20 transactions were set in motion.”

“I made a significant number of new contacts and am now actively engaged in  discussions on projects in Puerto Rico, Mexico, the Bahamas and Panama,” said David Swartz,managing principal of The Management Consortium, Inc., a Hollywood, Fla.-based hospitality advisory services firm.  “The quality of the attendees was exceptional.”

The conference targeted Latino hotel owners, developers, lenders, hedge funds, operators and suppliers located in South America, the United States, Central America, the Caribbean and Mexico.  Special emphasis at this year’s event focused on hotel opportunities in Chile, Mexico, Panama and Costa Rica.

Opening speakers Bobby Bowers, senior vice president, Smith Travel Research, and Mark Woodworth, president of PKF Hospitality Research, differed slightly on the outlook for the economy, but both agreed that the next 12 to 15 months would be difficult from an operations viewpoint, compared to the past several years.  

Organizers introduced a number of new events into the traditional hotel conference format that set a festive tone despite the battering taking place in the stock market.  Kicking off the three-day conference was a lighthearted “Battle of the Brands” opening party that pitted four hotel mega-brands—InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG), Wyndham Hotels and Resorts, Hilton Hotels Corporation and ACCOR—in a friendly competition to showcase the best hospitality presentation.  Creative elements included exotic foods, a cruise ship motif, Cirque Angels, salsa dancers and a hand-rolled cigar maker.  ACCOR won the Brand Champion title, while Hilton garnered the Best Food & Beverage Award, Wyndham captured the Best Brand Promotion Award and IHG walked away with the Most Engaging Presentation Award.

The conference also introduced the Estrella Awards, which celebrate the best of the best in Latino relations, operations and management.  Hilton received the HHOA Chairman’s Award for its trailblazing efforts in support of the organization and outreach to the Hispanic community.  

“We are gratified to be recognized with this award and to have been among the first hotel companies to step forward and make a commitment to the Hispanic community,” said Craig Mance, senior vice president franchise development North America of Hilton Hotels Corporation.  “We currently have franchise commitments with five Latinos and have four additional projects in the pipeline.  We are working to double that number within the next several years as we extend our outreach program to the Hispanic community.”

Other winners included:

  • Boutique Hotel of the Year— Hilton, St. Louis Downtown, owned and operated by American Property Management Corporation, San Diego, Calif., USA
  • Resort Hotel of the Year— Sofitel Guaruja Jequitimar, owned and operated by Sisan Empreendimentos Imobillarios, Guaruja, Sao Paulo, Brazil
  • Luxury Hotel of the Year— The Mayflower Inn & Spa, a five-star, five-diamond property in Washington, Conn., owned and operated by American Property Management Corporation,  San Diego, Calif., USA
  • Full Service Hotel of the Year— Doubletree San Diego Downtown, owned and operated by American Property Management Corporation, San Diego, Calif., USA
  • Select Service Hotel of the Year— Best Western Inn & Suites, Miami Airport West, owned and operated by Benito Istorza, Miami, Fla., USA
  • Economy Hotel of the Year— Super 8, Rio Rancho, N.M., owned and operated by Peak Hospitality, Albuquerque, N.M., USA
  • Hispanic General Manager of the Year— Rita Baca, Doubletree San Diego Downtown, San Diego, Calif., USA
  • Hispanic Developer of the Year— John Lopez, Suenos LLC, Oklahoma City, Okla., USA
  • Hispanic Management Company of the Year— Benchmark Hospitality International, The Woodlands, Texas, USA
  • Hospitality Supplier of the Year— KOJO Worldwide, San Diego, Calif., USA
  • Hispanic Hotelier of the Year — Raul Leal, president, Tecton Hospitality, Miami, Fla., USA
Vendors also rated the event highly.  “Our firm landed a number of new projects, and we are in negotiations on a number of others,” said Minor Ramirez, Latin America regional representative of Advanced Equipment Corporation.  “The diversity of project locations was noteworthy, including Costa Rica, Mexico and Puerto Rico and in the U.S., Denver, Miami and New York.” 

Corporate sponsors included Hilton Hotels Corporation, Marriott International, Wyndham Worldwide Corporation, La Quinta, Hyatt, ACCOR North America, Choice Hotels International, Carlson Hotels Worldwide, Starwood and InterContinental Hotel Group. 

Food and beverage was not overlooked.  A Culinary Masters Luncheon showcased world-class chefs from four hotels, including Yeni Chacon, Sofitel Victoria Regia; Mauricio Lopez, Hilton Los Cabos; Aaron Chavarria, Hyatt Sarasota; and Paula Dasilva, Marriott Harbor Beach Resort & Spa.  Chefs created innovative cuisine with a Latin American flair and were judged by a panel of industry executives and celebrity chefs.  The competition was won by Hilton Los Cabos’ Mauricio Lopez who received the title “Culinary Master.”

About HHOA
Headquartered in Washington, D.C., HHOA is a non-profit organization whose mission is to increase the number of Hispanic-owned, -developed and -operated hotels, further the participation of Hispanic-owned suppliers serving the hotel industry and increase executive-level employment opportunities for Hispanics within the lodging industry.  The industry’s leading brands, including Hilton Hotels Corporation, Marriott International, Choice Hotels International, Wyndham Worldwide Corporation and Global Hyatt Corporation have joined the organization and have become major corporate sponsors.  

HHOA membership is open to hotel owners, developers, investors, financiers, real estate executives, investment bankers, professional advisors, analysts, franchisors, management company executives, industry product and service providers, hotel general managers, hotel sales and marketing managers, government agencies for tourism and development, hospitality schools, hospitality students or anyone seeking to do business within the Hispanic market.  


Angela Gonzalez-Rowe
202-587-5707, or



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